Author: Barnaby Porter

There was a time when it was not at all uncommon to see kids chasing around after robins with saltshakers. At least that was the case in our yard. A lot of the kids I knew used to chase robins. All of us who did it were believers in the practice. All of us who tried threw our hearts into it on the best advice of those who presumably knew – our mothers.

Oh, they knew all right. Those were the days before anyone watched much television (if they even had one), when parents still had some influence on how kids wasted their time.

Waiting for spring to come is in many ways similar to watching a pot put on to boil. There’s the long period of finger drumming, of looking and listening for sure signs that something’s happening. But spring itself is more like the cat at the door; it’ll come in when it’s good and ready and not a minute sooner. You can stand there half your life holding the door open. Long waits can get pretty maddening though, and many’s the cat who’s had a door slammed in its face for taking too long.

About the full of the Moon, it is reported more babies are born than during the rest of the month. Dogs and werewolves have a glint in their eye and howl a lot. The tides swell to their maximum. Storms blow harder than ever, and cold weather streams down upon us with a vengeance. The full of the Moon is the time for extremes. At least on average that is what the records show. I have to agree it certainly seems so to me.
But one can wonder if what we interpret as extremes of weather and strange events are really that. Ringed as we are by “artificial” horizons, the trees and the hills and built-up skylines, I believe our perspective is foreshortened somewhat. Our lives are governed in large by our local circumstances – that old “can’t see the forest for the trees” effect. (…)

This post is contributed by Barnaby Porter from his archives. Read the previous post here. A friend from the past, Helen, decided to spend the winter alone in an old farmhouse. It was a long winter that year, with deep snow, sparkling days and moaning nights. She was in need of solitude, had things to think about and writing to do, and the farmhouse needed a caretaker to keep the place warm. It could have been, too, that certain farmhouse spirits were in need of company, which would have given meaning to the hex sign on the barn door. I …

Cast-iron Spirits Read More »

I recently took a walk one cold winter night, to commune with the night sky and gaze out into the Universe. I am much more aware of what’s up there at night than I am by day, which, on first examination doesn’t make as much sense as it ought to.

After all, if a body thinks about it, there is much more of the familiar world visible by the light of day; it’s what our eye is geared to: trees and water, mountains and clouds, the creatures of the Earth, the landscape. (…)

Every now and then a friend will remark, “I don’t like November much.” And I wonder, can this be a friend of mine who maligns another with so closed a mind, who writes off an entire month simply to feed a foul humor? November is a friend too, and I am uncomfortable with having to defend one against the other. So, I don’t.

One thing can be said for November: It is an honest month, hardworking and as earnest in it’s ready-making for winter as any could be. “And the eleventh will be (…)

I had my field tilled up this spring, its idle soil turned through and through. Nothing much has grown there for years and years, just daisies and hawkweed and some goldenrod. And grasses too, like timothy and orchard grass, and purple vetch and buttercups – the usual stuff of idle fields, along with worms and grasshoppers, mice and voles, garters and grass snakes. Rather a lot of things when I sum them up, but still it’s been quite a while since that ground saw much activity besides its annual mowing with attendant swallows swooping low for stirred-up insects and a handful of crows and the fox looking for bigger and better morsels. (…)

There are signs that September is afoot. I heard a woman worriedly discussing caterpillars in the hardware store. (I find it interesting that hardware men’s expertise in paints and faucet washers somehow bestows on them authority to hold forth on all matters concerning natural history.) The conversation progressed from woolly bears to the few splashes of red the woman had noticed in the swamp maples that morning, and from there to what might be taken for an untoward crispness in the night air. There was urgency in her voice, yet she didn’t make it exactly clear what was unnerving her so. I had to leave so never heard her out. (…)

On rising this sunny morn, there are tomatoes overflowing a wicker basket on the kitchen counter alongside a heaping bowl of peaches, ripe with fruit flies. Insects scissor in the tall grass outside the open windows. The toilet tank sweats in the sticky air, and the dogs barely stir from their morning stupor. It’s August, full-blown, fermenting sweetly like a fat berry on a bush.

The end of a passionate season is at hand, everything squandered, spent. As my neighbor, Bob, and I discuss this sentiment, we rearrange the calendar to mark (…)

Nothing can spoil a tranquil moment quite like having a chunk of meat ripped out of your leg. Not only does it hurt like mad, it can put a guy into a such a sweat of flailing arms and slapping hands that you stand a good chance of hurting yourself further out of sheer determination to not let it happen again. They call it the “Greenhead Dance.”

Greenheads – those big flies with the green heads that bite like a horse – are the bane of near-naked summer folk frequenting the water’s edge. They are expert at (…)